Martin Raff was born and educated in Montreal. He received his BSc and MD degrees at McGill University and did a residency in medicine at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal and in neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He did postdoctoral training in immunology at the National Institute for Medical Research in London, after which he moved to University College London, where he has been a Professor of Biology since 1979 and emeritus since 2002. He is currently at the Medical Reseach Council Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology and in the Biology Department at University College London. His research has been in immunology, cell biology, and developmental neurobiology.
He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Academia Europaea, a foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences.
He was president of the British Society of Cell Biology from 1991 to 1995 and chairman of the UK Life Sciences Committee from 1998-2001. He is co-author of two widely used textbooks, Molecular Biology of the Cell and Essential Cell Biology.